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RVA Legends — Allen & Ginter

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

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[IOR] — Allen & Ginter, Manufacturers of Cigarettes and Smoking Tobacco — Office and Factory

Sixth & Cary Streets NW (Warehouse)
600 East Cary Street (Stemmery)
Seventh & Cary Streets SW (Factory)

P. H. Mayo may have been the first, but Allen & Ginter became the king.

(NCPedia) — Harper’s Weekly illustration, January 15, 1887 issue — showing women hand-rolling cigarettes in a Virginia factory

(NCpedia) — Harper’s Weekly illustration, January 15, 1887 issue — showing women hand-rolling cigarettes in a Virginia factory

This establishment, which was the first of its kind in Virginia, was founded in 1865, by Messrs. Allen & Ginter. They employ eleven hundred hands, nearly all of whom are girls, have eighteen commercial salesmen on the road, and their goods are known all over the world. This was the first Cigarette Factory in the United States that employed female help in manipulating Cigarettes, and the superiority of this labor over all other is attested by the fact that all other Cigarette factories are following the example of Messrs. Allen & Ginter.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 1 — showing the warehouse (left), stemmery (center), & factory (bottom) locations

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 1 — showing the warehouse (left), stemmery (center), & factory (bottom) locations

They occupy three large brick buildings, each 70×150 feet, five stories high, which gives them the vast amount of 157,500 square feet of floor space. The two buildings at the corner of 7th and Cary streets, are the manufacturing and shipping departments, while the one at the corner of 6th and Cary streets is used exclusively for the storage and preparing of leaf.

August 2019 — looking towards former warehouse location at Sixth & Cary Streets NW

August 2019 — looking towards former warehouse location at Sixth & Cary Streets NW

The entire works are fitted throughout with the most modern machinery, and other appliances, for the successful prosecution of their immense business. The establishment is a paragon of neatness, and the most complete system reigns throughout the premises. They have branch houses in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and London.

August 2019 — looking towards former stemmery location at 600 East Cary Street

August 2019 — looking towards former stemmery location at 600 East Cary Street

Their production is chiefly fine grades of Cigarettes and Smoking Tobacco. Their Cigarettes have a reputation that has made them a standard article in all parts of the world. They have received the highest awards of merit at the great exhibitions in Philadelphia, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne and New Orleans.

August 2019 — looking towards former factory location at Seventh & Cary Streets SW

August 2019 — looking towards former factory location at Seventh & Cary Streets SW

In addition to their immense sale in this country, they export them to all parts of the world, and there is scarcely a country in which they are not sold. While the sale of adulterated brands of many American manufacturers has been prohibited in Great Britain, their absolutely pure goods have attained the largest popular sale ever known in Cigarettes in that country, with a steadily increasing demand.

(EBay) — Allen & Ginter Tobacco Reverse Painted Glass Sign, circa 1890

(EBay) — Allen & Ginter Tobacco Reverse Painted Glass Sign, circa 1890

Their Cigarettes are made with different degrees of strength to suit all tastes. They use the tasteless French rice paper, made in France expressly for them. It has no smell, and its purity is such that in burning scarcely an atom of ash remains.

(Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden) — advertisement for Richmond Gem, Richmond Straight Cut, & Our Little Beauties

(Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden) — advertisement for Richmond Gem, Richmond Straight Cut, & Our Little Beauties

Among their leading brands, are “Richmond Straight Cuts,” “The Pet,” “Dubec” (genuine Turkish), “Virginia Brights,” “Opera Puff,” “Our Little Beauties,” “Perfection,” “Richmond Gem,” “Sunny South,” “Dixie,” and “Dainties.”

Among their Smoking Mixtures, are “Imperial,” “Richmond Gem,” “ Richmond Straight Cut, No. 1,” “Perique,” “Turkish,” “Richmond Mixture, Nos. 1 and 2.”

Cut Plug Tobaccos. “Cable Coil,” “Dixie Chop,” “Richmond Cavendish, Nos. 1 and 2,” “Imperial Cavendish,” &c, &c. Granulated Tobaccos. “Matchless,” “Buds and Blossoms,” “Dixie.” and “Killickinnick.”

(Find A Grave) — John Frederick Allen

(Find A Grave) — John Frederick Allen

In 1882, Mr. Allen, the senior partner, retired, and Mr. Lewis Ginter admitted Mr. John Pope into co partnership, continuing under the old firm name. No firm in existence is more liberal to its employees, or mindful of their interests. Messrs. Ginter and Pope are two of Richmond’s most progressive and representative business men. [IOR]

(Find A Grave) — Lewis Ginter

(Find A Grave) — Lewis Ginter

Allen & Ginter succeeded in dominating the cigarette market in large part due to Lewis Ginter’s singular business acumen. Not only did he create a successful blend of bright and burley tobaccos for a tempting, tasty smoke, he also knew how to market his ciggies. [CIGC]

Starting in 1875, Allen & Ginter became the first tobacco company to issue colorful trading cards with each pack of smokes. Originally, the intent was practical, to stiffen the soft cigarette packs, but by adding a colorful advertising plug, they set off a collector craze that drove sales and forced the industry to follow suit. (Collectors Weekly)

Unfortunately, Ginter’s skills were not universal, and it cost him.

(U. S. Patent & Trademark Office) — diagram from James Albert Bonsack’s U.S. patent 238,640, granted March 8, 1881

(U. S. Patent & Trademark Office) — diagram from James Albert Bonsack’s U.S. patent 238,640, granted March 8, 1881

As mentioned above, Allen & Ginter’s factory output was all derived by hand. Rolling cigarettes was time-consuming, required a large labor force, and limited production. As cigarettes became more popular with the smoking public, tobacco companies started looking for ways to automate the process. Allen & Ginter sponsored a competition for a solution, which was won in 1881 by 22-year-old American inventor James Bonsack.

(PeoplePill) — James Albert Bonsack, sporting a smug “I’m so smart” expression that makes you want to smack him

(PeoplePill) — James Albert Bonsack, sporting a smug “I’m so smart” expression that makes you want to smack him

Bonsack produced a machine that rolled a single long cigarette that was then cut into separate pieces. However, the technology was new and finicky, requiring lots of tinkering to keep it operational. In a singular example of not being able to read the tea leaves, Allen & Ginter elected not to use the device, preferring to stay with their tried and true process.

Enter everyone’s favorite tobacco villain, James Buchanan Duke, President of American Tobacco Company.

(Duke University Libraries) — James Buchanan Duke

(Duke University Libraries) — James Buchanan Duke

Duke saw the promise of the Bonsack Machine and immediately inked a deal for its exclusive use. American Tobacco Company actively worked with Bonsack to improve the device, which eventually came to dominate the industry. It gave Duke a powerful competitive advantage over his rivals and led to Ginter’s surrender in 1890. Allen & Ginter was reduced to a being a subsidiary of the new American Tobacco Company Trust, led by Duke as its new president. [CIGC]

(Vintage Richmond) — showing the Imperial Tobacco Company building that replaced the former Allen & Ginter warehouse in 1904, itself demolished in the late 70s

(Vintage Richmond) — showing the Imperial Tobacco Company building that replaced the former Allen & Ginter warehouse in 1904 at the NW corner of Sixth & Cary, itself demolished in the late 70s

As for the Allen and Ginter locations, it is difficult to pin down when they were built and when they fell, but their operations would eventually relocate to the American Tobacco Company’s new factory on North Twentieth Street. The former Allen & Ginter buildings were picked up by other tobacco enterprises, and their glory days were over.

(Allen & Ginter is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [CIGC] The Cigarette Century. Allan M. Brandt. 2007.
  • [IOR] Industries of Richmond. James P. Wood. 1886
  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.

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Suspect Sought in Theft from Broad Street Building

It’s not stated by RPD but based on Tweets earlier this week we believe this is Mayor Stoney’s re-election headquarters.

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is suspected of stealing from a building on West Broad Street on Monday.

During the early morning hours on Monday, October 12, the suspect entered the building in the 2600 block of W. Broad Street and stole a large television from the common area. The suspect was last seen heading west on Broad Street with the TV.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective K.L.  Robinson at (804) 646-6820 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.  The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used.  All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Daily Planet Health Services holding supply drive through end of October

A full list of in-demand items is available on the nonprofit’s website, but among other things, the needs include generic freezer bags (quart and gallon in size); new men’s and women’s underwear, new or gently used t-shirts and socks; prepaid phone cards and prepackaged snacks.

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In advance of colder temperatures and the winter months, Daily Planet Health Services (DPHS) will hold a supply drive throughout the month of October. Supplies collected will be distributed directly to those experiencing homelessness and patients of the nonprofit’s Medical Respite and Safe Haven programs, which offer patients a place to recuperate, re-establish and reconnect – including homeless and veteran populations.

A full list of in-demand items is available on the nonprofit’s website, but among other things, the needs include generic freezer bags (quart and gallon in size); new men’s and women’s underwear, new or gently used t-shirts and socks; prepaid phone cards and prepackaged snacks.

“Traditionally, the summer and winter months are the most difficult for those experiencing homelessness to navigate, and this time of year will be further complicated because many of the resources traditionally utilized by this population have been affected by COVID-19,” said Taylor Garrett, outreach coordinator for Daily Planet Health Services. “Many of the creature comforts that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis are inaccessible for those experiencing homelessness, and these donations will make an impact right away.”

Donated items can be brought to the nonprofits 517 W Grace St Health Center M-F from Oct. 12-30 between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In an effort to promote social distancing within the facility, those participating are encouraged to call 804-783-2505 to notify DPHS of the delivery, and a member of the team will come out to collect the items.

“In July and August, we were absolutely heartened by the generosity and support shown by the Richmond community, who turned out and supported our work to keep the homeless population nourished and hydrated during the hottest months of the year,” said Anita Bennett, acting CEO of Daily Planet Health Services. “We truly would not be able to succeed without the support of the Richmond community, and our hope is that those around the city will come together with the common goal of continuing to assist those in need.”

Individuals and families also are encouraged to take part in service projects, and a full list of opportunities is available on the nonprofit’s website. The projects were designed to help educate and engage those who want to help in a hands-on way, but have been prevented from doing so due to the pandemic. A range of options are available, which can be completed individuals, families or groups of students, church groups or offices.

If individuals would like to assist the DPHS in this effort, but are uncomfortable with purchasing items in-store and dropping them off at the health center, fiscal donations can be tagged with “Supply Drive” in the additional comments section of the online donation form under “Donate” at dailyplanetva.org, which will be used by the nonprofit to purchase resources off of the supply list.

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Black Lives Matter renews interest in Richmond’s Black culture and history

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

Capital News Service

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By Cierra Parks

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped renew interest in Richmond’s African American culture and history, according to community leaders.

BLK RVA is an initiative launched in August 2019 between Richmond Region Tourism and 20 community leaders to highlight historic African American tourist attractions and engage visitors in events that support Richmond’s Black community. The group continues to promote Black-centered tourism in light of recent events. BLK RVA was recently awarded the Richmond Region Tourism Chairman’s Award in recognition of its contributions over the past year.

Tameka Jefferson, the community relations manager for Richmond Region Tourism and BLK RVA, said the Black Lives Matter movement has generated more interest in African American tourism, which she said is “long overdue.” Although Black Lives Matter began in 2013, the movement gained more support this year.

“Now is the time that we do need to come together as a community to support our businesses, to support our city and our region,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson also said that in the months following the death of George Floyd in police custody, she has seen more people visit the area around the Robert E. Lee statue. The area has been transformed into space used by the community for art, protest and memorial — and even basketball.

She said people are migrating to this area now that there has been a “staple of just coming together and a staple of community and uprising.”

BLK RVA’s mission is to illustrate that the Richmond region has evolved and is now a multicultural hub that specializes in four pillars: arts and entertainment, food and drink, community and history. She said the state capital is often seen through its outdated history–an outlook that needs to change.

In addition to African American-centered events and fundraisers, BLK RVA promotes the patronizing of what they call “rooted and rising” businesses; ones that have been around a while and others that are up and coming.

One established business is the Elegba Folklore Society, which was established 30 years ago. The Society hosts the annual Down Home Family Reunion and Juneteenth Freedom celebrations in addition to guided heritage tours along the Trail of Enslaved Africans and other historic sites. The trail details the history of slave trade from Africa to Virginia, following a route through the area’s former slave markets and also highlighting African American life leading up to the Civil War.

Omilade Janine Bell, president and artistic director of the Elegba Folklore Society, said the company prides itself on educating people because Black stories are often not fully told. She has noticed a renewed interest in learning about Black history in light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement. Jefferson echoes that statement.

“His (George Floyd’s) loss-of-life story has opened the eyes of many whose eyes had been shut tightly before,” Bell said. “Now there is a heightened awareness among Black people and others about the lack of equity.”

Jaynell Pittman-Shaw owns Maple Bourbon, a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch in Richmond’s downtown area that is one of BLK RVA’s “rising” businesses. Pittman-Shaw believes there is a new spotlight on inequity in the Black community.

“That is what people are protesting about right now: systemic and institutional racism,” Pittman-Shaw said. “Black business owners do not have access to the same resources that should be available to any business owner,” but black businesses need more support to thrive.

Jefferson said BLK RVA donated money from online merchandise sales to the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, which hosts a week-long event in the spring promoting black-owned food businesses. Over $15,000 was raised and distributed evenly among 35 Black Restaurant Week participants affected by COVID-19. Pittman- Shaw was one of the grantees. She plans to “pay it forward” by using the $500 grant she received to help another black-owned restaurant that did not participate in Black Restaurant Week.

Restaurants such as Big Herm’s Kitchen and Soul Taco used the money to help pay employees who were affected when COVID-19 restructured business.

The Richmond Black Restaurant Experience supports black, food-focused businesses, including restaurants, food trucks and catering services. They have raised nearly $50,000, surpassing their new goal of $25,000 according to the group’s GoFundMe page.

In addition to restaurants, other attractions have made adjustments since COVID-19 began. Many of them have migrated to virtual experiences. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture are offering virtual exhibits, including the All in Together collaborative project and Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality. The Elegba Folklore Society broadcast its Juneteenth celebration on Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.

The organization also recently promoted the Black is Beautiful beer initiative, a nationwide collaboration created by Marcus J. Baskerville, head brewer and co-owner at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio. Over 30 Virginia craft breweries participated to support people of color and raise funds for police reform and legal defense. Richmond breweries put their spin on the traditional imperial stout recipe to raise money for the Black is Beautiful cause. The Answer, Hardywood, The Veil and Lickinghole Creek were among the Richmond-area breweries that created stouts for the initiative. Each brewery will donate the proceeds to organizations that support the Black is Beautiful cause.

BLK RVA has also highlighted events such as the RVA Black Farmers Market, the Richmond Night Market and events hosted by UnlockingRVA.

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